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Gusty weather blows through Capital District

Gusty weather blows through Capital District

35,000 outages at peak
Gusty weather blows through Capital District
Fire Capt. Chris Keough where a tree snapped in high winds and crushed a car at 1065 Glenwood Blvd. in Schenectady on March 2.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

High winds whipped across the area Thursday morning and afternoon, downing power lines and trees; closing roads, schools and businesses; and causing power outages to tens of thousands throughout the Capital Region. 

In Saratoga Springs, a string of businesses on the eastern side of Broadway was closed all day because a loss of power. Several shops and restaurants had signs in their doors saying they would reopen at 4 p.m., when power was expected to be restored, while others were closed for the day. 

Uncommon Grounds was among the closed businesses. Meanwhile, across the street, Starbucks and Saratoga Coffee Traders were packed with customers at around 2:30 p.m. because power was not lost on Broadway's western side. 

"I see a lot of people that I have not seen before," said Scott Swedish, general manager of Saratoga Coffee Traders, where a line reached the door and most seats were filled. "It's a nice little bump, but if it were up to me, I'd prefer them to be open," he said of Uncommon Grounds. 

Without taking a break from brewing warm beverages for those coming in from the cold, he said the coffee shop had about 10 more customers per hour than a typical day. That number could've been higher, he said. 

"People that are loyal to Starbucks and Uncommon, they generally won't come here," he said. "They'll wait it out." Power went out at City Hall, on Broadway's eastern side, at around 8:10 a.m., but generators quickly kicked into gear and full power was eventually restored.

A National Grid spokesman said wind damage to transmission poles at a Saratoga County substation contributed significantly to outages in the area. 

“At one point, the bulk of our outages was in Saratoga County,” company spokesman Nate Stone said Thursday afternoon. 

Sgt. Kurt Haas with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said around 4 p.m. that there were roughly 5,500 outages in the county. He added that between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., county fire agencies were dispatched to 171 calls, the vast majority of which were electrical in nature.

“We’re doing a little better now,” said Haas around 4 p.m. “We still have some areas where trees and lines are down that we’re waiting for National Grid to arrive and take care of.”

Haas said no major injuries were reported in connection with the storm Thursday. 

“We did have a couple injuries, we had a tree on a house on Terrace Court in Clifton Park where two residents needed to be evaluated but were not transported to the hospital,” said Haas. “We had around six incidents of trees falling on residents’ homes that caused structural damage.” 

He added that a train was reported stopped for hours on the tracks crossing Ashdown and Blue Barns roads in Clifton Park due to trees that had fallen across the tracks to the west. As of 5 p.m., he said, the train was still there and the road remained closed. 

(Tom McBride)

Students at Lake Avenue Elementary in Saratoga Springs were dismissed at 11 a.m. In Mechanicville, there was a districtwide early dismissal. In Glenville near the border with Scotia, Route 50 was closed between Hetcheltown Road and Kile Drive because of downed pole and wires.

Stone said at the peak of the high winds Thursday there were 35,000 outages reported across National Grid’s regional footprint - Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga, Queensbury and west out to Gloversville.

A Nissan Rogue was crushed by a tree that snapped in high winds at 1065 Glenwood Blvd. on Thursday, March 2, 2017. (Peter R. Barber)

“Out of that we restored 19,000, we’re still working on the rest, we’re at about 15,000 right now,” said Stone around 5 p.m.

He added that there are many isolated outages that take time to get to, not only in New York but throughout New England.

“Basically there are so many outages right now that we’re going location to location to take care of them,” said Stone. “We’re really working hard to get everybody back up, there’s really a lot of damage. We have many broken poles and they take the longest to repair, you’ve got to take the old one out and put the new one in.”

Stone said as of Thursday evening the company had around 600 employees out clearing downed lines and trees and removing and replacing damaged poles. Stone said he has seen restoration times fluctuate up and down since Thursday morning. 

“Restoration times have changed quite a bit since this morning; I’d encourage customers who are without power to keep checking the app,” said Stone, noting that the company’s smartphone application is updated every 15 minutes. “And just be patient, we have crews out there doing everything they can to get power back.”

In Fulton County, Sheriff Richard Giardino said at the height of the gusty weather around 6,000 outages were reported in the county. 

“We’ve had a lot of downed lines,” said Giardino. “National Grid has been out humping and the power is going to be out until 11 p.m.” 

Giardino said no incidents of serious injury in connection with the high winds were reported. 

“We had a call for live wires on a vehicle, we had a school bus that was trapped between down wires and a downed tree,” said Giardino, noting that neither incident resulted in any injuries. 

He added that between 5 and 9 a.m. Thursday the fire departments were out nonstop handling calls for fallen trees, limbs on lines and arcing lines. 

“There were a couple of small fires related to arcing lines, tree branches on fire and that sort of thing,” said Giardino. “The fire departments, law enforcement and National Grid were all put to the test today and they did pretty good.” 

The Department of Transportation reported Thursday afternoon that Route 67 in Johnstown was closed between Route 30A and Heagle Road due to downed power lines. 

Officials in Fulton and Montgomery counties opened an emergency shelter at Fulton-Montgomery Community College for residents affected by power outages. The American Red Cross was rendering aid at the shelter, and said the organization was providing meals, a safe and warm place to sleep, and other basic necessities until those affected by the power outages are able to return to their homes.

Jeff Smith, Director of Montgomery County Emergency Management Office, said it’s been a rough week for first responders in the county after flooding last weekend during which county officials had to open a shelter for displaced residents. 

“It’s been an extremely busy week,” said Smith, noting earlier Thursday first responders had to deal with a 500 pound propane tank that toppled over in the wind and was leaking gas. “It’s been unbelievable.”

Smith appealed for patience as the area rides out the aftermath of the wind gusts. 

“I just ask the people to be patient with our first responders and National Grid, they’ve been out there all day long. It’s just been a rough day for everyone,” he said.

Smith encourages people without power to seek shelter somewhere that does. 

“If they can go to family or friends that's great and if they can’t we have the shelter available,” said Smith. “So hopefully everyone will stay safe and we’ll get power back tomorrow.” 

Meteorologist Tom Wasula with the National Weather Service in Albany said wind speeds at Albany County Airport were recorded at 54 MPH. In Schenectady wind speeds of 60 MPH were reported, while 51 MPH wind speeds were recorded near Hoosick Falls and 49 MPH near Waterford. Wind speeds of 51 MPH were recorded east of Glenville, he said. 

A high wind warning was in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 p.m. Thursday, but was canceled around 5 p.m. Thursday as winds died down, said Wasula. 

He added that the gusty weather occurred due to a change in air mass from very warm to very cold and dry, which resulted in a low pressure cold front that intensified and deepened as it traveled across the region. 

“We don’t get a lot of these but this is one of the unique high wind events we’ve had,” said Wasula.

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